Tag Archives: Speakeasy

What Did Prohibition Require?

Prohibition in the United States lasted from 1920 – 1933. Its mention conjures up illicit drinking in speakeasies and bloody gangster activities, but do you know what were the official parameters?

The effort that culminated in banning booze in our nation began well before the Civil War (1861-1865). Its proponents were looking to achieve a more moral and productive society, and they thought that keeping people from drinking would solve significant societal ills.

The legislation that resulted in Prohibition was actually quite unsatisfactory to teetotalers (people who do not drink). They saw it as not stringent enough.

At no point during Prohibition was illegal to DRINK alcohol. It was only illegal to make, sell, or transport it. While having a stockpile of alcohol was perfectly legal, however you could not do so at more than 2 residences—and at that one home had to be in the city and one in the country.

There were also medical and religious exemptions. Doctors could actually write prescriptions for booze, and religious leaders could dole it out for official ceremonies.

Plenty of people broke the law to drink during Prohibition, but there were many who imbibed while following the law.

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The Teetotaler’s Tax

When you think of Prohibition and the ramifications it had on America, what is the first aspect that jumps to mind? I bet it has more to do with notorious gangsters or glamorous parties of the Roaring 20s, than lost tax revenue.

During Prohibition a single large speakeasy could take in $500,000 annually (equal to $9.4 million today). Mind you, not a single penny of this revenue could be taxed.

In fact, the United States’ national budget prior to Prohibition was so dependent on tax revenue from alcohol sales that in order to implement the Noble Experiment we also had to implement a national income tax. That’s right, prior to going dry nationally America did not have an income tax.

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